India is an exotic land whose very name conjures up the rich aroma of exotic spices and vibrantly colored images of bustling markets and awe-inspiring architecture. Its arts and crafts are still created using ancient techniques, and its artisans draw upon millennia of influences from other Asian countries such as Pakistan and Mongolia.
Given the many amazing sights that such a vast country has to offer, suggesting an itinerary can be overwhelming. This is particularly true since individual cities have their own specialties to offer, ranging from sandstone sculpture and inlaid marble to painted miniatures, handmade jewelry, carved wood and camel hair rugs. But a trip focused on seeing and selecting the very best locally produced articles is well worth the 20-hour flight.
You’re immediately immersed in India’s dynamic energy upon arriving in New Delhi. Begin your trip with visits to the National Museum of India and the National Gallery of Modern Art, which will introduce you to India’s rich history and the wondrous sites that still inspire its art. Rickshaw through Old Delhi and dive into its bustling spice and sari markets, where you’ll see the daily life of shopping and bargaining as it has been carried out for centuries.
No trip to India is complete without a pilgrimage to Agra and its world-famous Taj Mahal, a testament of love that will leave you breathless with awe. The structure is an example of the kind of intricate marble inlay work still being done today, and the city is the ideal place to purchase tables and other pieces made from the translucent white Indian variety. You’ll have a chance to watch artisans inlay it with precious and semiprecious stones following the same techniques used in the Taj Mahal itself. The craft has been handed down from generation to generation, and each family has its own unique patterns, making your purchases even more fascinating.
The Pink City of Jaipur brims with unique objets d’art and is known for blue pottery tiles, porcelain plates, gemstones and jewelry. It is the only place to shop for Rajasthani camel hair carpets and to see how they are still made by hand. Outside of town, the roadsides are dotted with small tents doubling as workshops where artisans using saws and sanders sculpt the area’s red sandstone to create articles reminiscent of the pieces found in Mughal palaces.
Visit Jodhpur to shop for its famous handcrafted woodwork, including antique doors and furniture reproductions. Jodhpur is also known for hand-embroidered materials such as bed sheets and saris. Given the many choices you’ll be making, it is crucial to plan this portion of the trip with an expert guide who has access to the city’s workshops.
Textiles hand-stamped from wooden blocks are unique to Udaipur, and you can easily see the high level of craftsmanship in those made by the city’s artisans. Udaipur is also known for paintings on bone, paper and silk created with brushes of a single squirrel-tail hair—an intricate process that yields extremely detailed pieces.
A seasoned travel agent can put together a personalized itinerary with an Indian tour company to create a seamless, high-touch journey providing special access for shopping and personal interaction with local artisans. Such a trip would allow enough time to relax, appreciate the sights and enjoy the craftsmanship and skill that go into each magical piece of art.
Tiffany Bowne is a luxury lifestyle specialist and independent agent with All Star Travel Group. Learn more at http://allstartravelgroup.com/Tiffany_Bowne.html.